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The announcement of his death was made by President Jacob Zuma during a televised address.
“We’ve lost our greatest son,” Zuma said without providing details.
The iconic leader, known to millions as Madiba, grew frail over the past year and narrowly recovered from critical lung failure in late June. He celebrated his 95th birthday on July 18, which the United Nations in 2009 marked as Mandela Day.
He was hospitalised in March after doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia, and was also admitted in December due to lung problems.
Mandela suffered from tuberculosis when he was incarcerated for 27 years before Apartheid rule ended in 1994.
The inspirational leader was jailed by the apartheid government for 27 years and was the first democratically-elected president in South Africa. His struggle became an iconic symbol for a nation emerging from decades of Apartheid rule. His calling for peace, reconciliation and unity pushed South Africa to emerge as a Rainbow Nation.
In 1993, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former President F.W. de Klerk for “their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new, democratic South Africa,” the Nobel committee said at the time.
Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999, and retired from public life in 2004.
During his inaugural speech, Mandela said: “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another; the sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.”
The genesis of his magic was that he outclassed them all and then won them over, says South African journalist Imran Garda.
“Leading South Africa with a spirit of forgiveness, striving towards an ideal of a retribution-free nation, a country of truth and reconciliation where the oppressor asked for forgiveness and the oppressed were encouraged to forgive.|